Devotion Series Boxset
“This story flowed all the way through and has it all, the secrets, love, twists, heartbreak and hope and the journey that Tiffany and Liz go on is strong.” - on Beloved DevotionVictoria
“The heat and chemistry between Rick and Christy was scorching.” - on Undying DevotionManda
“This story has all the hallmarks of a good romantic thriller, it’s got the heat, the heart, mystery and thrilling action!” - On Distorted DevotionBibliophile Chloe
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Swept off her feet by love, life takes a dark, unexpected turn. Now the love of her life may be the cause of her death.
A long-term couple with a secret life. Their friends envy the bond they share, but remain oblivious to their lifestyle and how deep the bond lies. A turn of events has her wanting to spill every secret.
She asks the love of life to marry her. When her girlfriend hesitates, then says yes, she is determined to learn why. As the pieces start to fall into place, she discovers she doesn’t know her fiancee at all.
Release date: November 17, 2020
Publisher: Between Words Publishing LLC
Print pages: 824
Content advisory: Book 3 contains physical abuse/domestic violence
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Devotion Series Boxset
“Thank you for your time, Ms. Jacobson. If you’ll bear with me a few more minutes, I need to get a few more pieces of information from you.”
My fingertips typed like a madwoman on my keyboard. On a roll, I gathered information from my tenth sale this month. Out of nowhere, a pen crashed into my desk, hurtled from outside my seven-by-seven cubicle.
Continuing my task, I ignored the projectile for the time being. “All right, Ms. Jacobson. I have all the information I need from you today. In the next week, you’ll be receiving a packet of paperwork with further details in the mail. It will contain instructions on what you need to do to finish the process. Do you have any more questions for me today?”
She stammered as uncertainty rang in her answer.
“If you think of anything else, please don’t hesitate to call back and ask for Sarah Bradley. I’m happy to answer any questions that may arise.”
Ms. Jacobson thanked me, her tone more chipper.
“It’s been my pleasure, Ms. Jacobson. If there’s nothing else I can assist you with today, I will let you enjoy the rest of this beautiful day. Thank you for choosing Hammond Life Insurance to protect your future, have a wonderful day.”
Pressing the button on my earpiece, I disconnected the call. I finished typing a few last things before saving the new client profile. A rush soared beneath my ribcage as pride infiltrated in my veins. Two weeks into the quarter and I was on fire. This was cause for celebration.
I searched for the projectile pen which fell to the floor and rolled under my desk. A small slip of paper was taped to the barrel. As I peeled the tiny note from the pen missile, I saw a familiar scribble.
Lucky bitch! You’re buying drinks tonight.
I scribbled back my response, more than happy to pay for a round or two of drinks tonight. Securing the note back onto the pen, I rose from my chair—my eyes peeking over the partition walls around me—and launched it back to the desk it originated from.
“Ow! At least I didn’t hit you.”
I stepped out from the confines of my second home. Not as if I lived at work, but I put in my fair share of time. Like so many others, I embellished the semi-fabric cubicle walls with décor. Various pieces of bohemian art made the space more pleasant to stare at five days a week.
I eased through the sea of cubicles. In a handful of strides, I reached the plot of desk space given to one of my favorite people—Christy. Her workspace resembled the teeny-bopper magazines from our younger years—the walls splattered with vivid colors and celebrities she crushed on.
Her back to me when I rounded the corner, I stood quietly as her fingers typed with vigor. Lost in a trance with whatever task she had been assigned, Christy was clueless that I lingered just inches from her. I reached out and touched her shoulder. Her body jumped at the contact as a soft squeal erupted from her throat.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you, chicky.” I resisted laughing for… three, two, one.
Face shrouded in faux disbelief, Christy spun around with her fists on her hips. “And I’m supposed to take your word on that? Right after you hurled a pen at my head.”
“If my memory serves correct, you fired the first shot. So…”
“True. But I didn’t hit you. I only wanted it to land on your desk,” Christy muttered.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean for it to hit you. I took no aim. Forgive me?” My most pathetic puppy dog eyes and pouty lips groveled for forgiveness.
She turned back to her monitor and tapped the keys. “I forgive you.”
The good friend I am, I allowed her a moment to finish whatever I disrupted. While she typed, I checked my watch. The digital face lit and displayed twelve-eleven.
“Hey, you want to grab lunch when you wrap up?” I asked.
Her fingers paused a split-second. “Yeah. Give me five minutes. I’ll come get you when I’m done.”
“Cool. See you in a few.”
Falling in line with the masses, we stood at the deli counter and waited to order lunch. Carol’s Deli took up half of the first floor and was always crowded.
“Number sixty-seven!” a petite woman hollered over the crowd, her eyes scanning the sea of faces. Her dark locks in a messy bun and masked by a cotton net.
“That’s me!” I wiggled between a few people and stepped up to the counter.
“What can I get for ya, doll?” She poised her pen on the green order pad and smiled. I rattled off mine and Christy’s orders. Tossing my call number into a wicker basket, I waited as she finished scribbling our order down. She tore the slip from the stack and read the order back to me. “Anything else for ya, hun?”
“Nope, that’s it.”
She reached under the counter and grabbed a numbered, plastic tent. As she jotted the number on the order slip, she handed me the table tent. “Have a seat, darlin’. Someone will bring your food out soon.”
Sifting my way through the throng of people, I stepped out of the hovering lunch crowd and found Christy. She snagged us a table by the windows—best table in the place.
“Food’s ordered. Shouldn’t be too long,” I said as I slid into the chair across from Christy.
“So, I read your little note. Since I got another sale today, you think I should buy drinks tonight, huh?”
“Um, yeah. You’re knocking it out of the park up there, chica. I bet you already exceeded your quota for the month. What was today? Eight or nine?”
My cheeks heat under her estimation. “Ten,” I muttered.
“Seriously? How the hell do you find these people? Compared to you, I’m a slacker. I have four sales. Four. Soon, you’ll set the bar and I’ll be left in the wastelands.” Her smirk a mix of jealousy and sarcasm.
“Shut your mouth. You’re talking nonsense. My last three sales have all been referrals from other clients. Just doing things like usual.” Christy loved harassing me, just for the hell of it.
I sat nowhere near the top of the sales list. That throne belonged to Agnes. Agnes started here before electricity was invented. Okay, slight exaggeration. In actuality, she started working for Hammond Life two years before I was born. Her twenty-eight-year tenure provided her top seniority amongst the worker bees.
If Christy thought highly of my ten sales, she would flip out when she learned Agnes’s numbers. Last I heard, Agnes had already sealed the deal on twenty-two new clients. My shorter tenure with Hammond of two-and-half years was laughable—not even a tenth of Agnes’ time—but I had a tiny following. Agnes had a binder full of contacts. I had four sheets.
She was an absolute legend among us.
“Well, everyone loves you. They’re flocking to you in herds,” Christy stated.
“Herds? That’s extreme. It takes over ten to make a herd. Right?” This whole conversation is laughable. There were better things to talk about off the clock. This was our time, and I was done with the shop talk. “Enough about work and numbers. What d’ya want to do tonight? Drinks, dinner, a movie? Your call. I’ll buy, seeing as I’m some master sales guru now.”
“Not sure. I talked with Rick last night. He’s headed out with the guys tonight, so I’m open. Maybe hang at my place? Have you talked to Liz today?”
Liz wasn’t just our bestie, she also worked at Hammond. We’d all started at different times, but fell into friendship easily. Funny enough, no one ever pegged us as friends—a free-spirited hippie child, an over bubbly, never-shuts-the-hell-up girl, and a punk loving goth. But our friendship bonded us like sisters.
“Haven’t seen her. She must be in her fortress, hunting for prey.”
We all made cracks about cubicle life. Jokes made work more tolerable. As did decorating. No two cubicles were the same. On any given day, you’d walk past Star Wars, Star Trek (and whatever you do, don’t confuse the two or you’ll never hear the end of it), Harry Potter, comic book paraphernalia, holiday decor, and family photos.
Christy giggled and heads turned. Her laugh a sweet, whimsical sound. “When we’re done, let’s stop by her desk.”
“Sounds good. I vote we stay in. We can hang at your place. Watch a movie, eat takeout, drink a little. Whatcha think?”
“Perfect. I’m sure Liz will join. Want me to grab the provisions?” Christy tucked an escaped russet curl behind her ear under her thick, black-framed glasses.
“I’ll grab food. You guys figure out drinks. We can sort it out with her.”
A moment later, our lunch was delivered, and all conversation went out the window. My stomach grumbled loud enough for the next table to hear. As soon as the plate hit the table, I shoved a forkful in my mouth.
“Is there anything else I can get you ladies?” I shook my head, spewing a muffled no thanks.
He chuckled. “Let us know if you need anything else.” As fast as he appeared, he vanished.
“You’re a nut! Like a damn two-year-old, talking with your mouth full.” Christy’s musical giggle disrupted the chitchat near us.
“You know you love me. Just shut up and eat your sandwich.”
I stepped inside Christy’s apartment and my two favorite people greeted me.
Christy, in all her boisterous glory, bounded toward me. “Hey, bitch!” Wrapping her arms around me, she squeezed me tight like a stress ball. Then let go and disappeared around the corner. “You bring the food?” she hollered.
I trailed behind her as she walked to the kitchen. Christy and Rick’s apartment was one of a few things I envied. They lucked out and got it for a steal. It had been remodeled and had the modern appeal everyone sought out. But her kitchen… it made me want to learn how to bake. Complete apartment jealousy.
Two plastic bags dangled in my hands. The scent of onions and garlic and grease wafted in the air as I set the Chinese food on the kitchen island. “Veggie Lo Mein, tofu and string beans, Kung Pao chicken, shrimp egg foo young, veggie egg rolls, tons of rice, crunchy noodles, and fortune cookies.”
“It’s as if you know the way to my heart.” Liz’s raspy tone rang out as she walked in from the living room. Right hand over her heart, she faux-swooned.
“Hey girl! Glad you made it,” I said. I hugged her tight as if we hadn’t seen each other in years.
“Although my body disagrees, I can’t wait to eat everything. Just have to add a few extra miles to my run tomorrow.”
“Liz, no one will know you ate a crap ton of greasy, delicious, carb-loaded Chinese food. There’s nothing to worry about.” Drawing an X over my heart, I continued. “Your secret’s safe with me.”
Her hazels narrowed and her slender lips scrunched. “I’m not journaling what I eat. Just don’t eat much heavy stuff anymore. My body will punish me tomorrow, but it’s totally worth it.”
“Awesome. Christy, what are we watching?” She messed with the remote while I grabbed plates and utensils.
“I’ll find it in a minute. Some new comedy on Netflix I added to the playlist. Got it… When We First Met.”
She dropped the remote on the table and came back to the kitchen, grabbing a plate and piling it high. A minute later, we headed out to the living room and sat sukh asana on cushy pillows around the table on the floor.
Christy brought a few beers to the table. I raised my bottle in the air and they mimicked. “Congrats for gaining ten new clients this month. And to us, reason unnecessary.”
Our bottles clinked and we took a long pull from the brown bottlenecks. I didn’t need a reason to hang out with Liz and Christy. Us spending time together was the same as breathing—both were essential. Whether it be Friday or Monday, anytime with Liz and Christy was perfect. Which reminds me of Monday…
“This just crossed my mind… you guys ready for the meeting on Monday?”
“Nope. We’re not doing that now.” Christy barked at me like a mother hen. Her eyes narrowed as she pointed a manicured finger at me.
“Talking about work. The only exception was bringing up your sales. But it ends there.”
“Yes, Mom.” I stuck out my tongue, cocked a brow, and crossed my eyes.
My reward… A pillow to the face.
As with every other weekend in the history of mankind, this one ended too soon.
My alarm screamed an incessant buzz-wail combo and startled me from a deep sleep. What I wouldn’t give for a little more sleep. But, like a good girl, I smacked the button and rolled out of bed. Sleeping another hour would have been easy, but a little voice whispered in my ear and reminded me to get off my ass and go to the gym.
Slower than typical, I slipped on my workout gear in the dark. I grabbed my gym bag after securing my hair, foregoing any extensive grooming until after. As I walked out of my apartment, I dropped my keys in my bag and walked to the gym in the middle of my gated apartment complex.
I loved having an all-inclusive gym—one of several reasons I lived here. The rent was reasonable considering the complex sat on the outskirts of Savannah. The gym—loaded with more equipment than I would ever use—three pools, and several other great amenities sold me. The gated community the best perk. Safety was immeasurable, and I never had a worry here.
The gym’s bright lights glowed in the morning darkness. It’d be another hour until the sun rose. Waking this early was worth it to miss everyone else in the complex. A shiver rippled through me as I tugged the metal door handle to the gym. A rush of warm air enveloped me and defrosted some of the early morning January air.
Moving past several muscle building contraptions, I headed for the row of treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes, and rowing machines. They formed a line, a break between them when it changed from one type to the next. A row of benches lined up a few feet behind them, butting against half-walled/half-windowed rooms. The rooms for yoga, Pilates, or other non-equipment classes.
After I set my bag on the bench behind the treadmill, I grabbed my towel, phone, and earbuds. My bag only held a few things—a change of clothes, water, keys, and an additional towel. Since I brought nothing I deemed important, I didn’t worry about leaving it unattended. Plus, early hours in the gym equaled fewer bodies.
I stepped up and straddled the treadmill belt. After I pressed a few buttons, I started my warmup. Soon it would progress into a twenty-five-minute run. Running races for medals wasn’t my thing, I only want to stay healthy.
Popping my earbuds in place, I scanned my music and hit play. I picked an upbeat playlist since I needed to wake up and motivate. Today would be busy. Besides the normal hustle and bustle, we had our quarterly staff meeting. Numbers and graphs and goals galore. If I didn’t wake up now, I would fall asleep once the power point started.
“You ready?” Christy stood across from my desk, pen and paper in hand. She tapped the pen like an impatient child. Christy was always happy-go-lucky, except when it came to work and meetings. Work smudged out her light.
“We do this every quarter. Not like anything spectacular will happen.” I rose from my chair and grabbed a pen and paper.
“The day we’re not prepared, a huge change will be announced. Mark my words.” She pointed her pen at me and puckered her lips, nodding like a lunatic. What she took seriously made me laugh.
As we walked down cubicle row, I worked to lighten her mood. At the office, Christy was more fidgety and circumspect. The second she saw the conference room, Christy sucked in a deep breath. Today’s meeting was for all the associates on our floor—all twenty-seven of us—plus our supervisors. Every quarter we sat in the same room, around the same round wooden tables, and picked at the sugar-laden candy in the center. Every meeting also involved a group exercise.
Liz waved to us from the chairs she secured for us. Bob from human resources and my direct supervisor, Marco, stood at the head of the room. Smiling, I waved at them as we walked over to Liz.
“Thanks for snagging us the good seats,” I said.
“Hey, if we have to sit here for the next three plus hours, I’d rather not crane my neck or spin around every time something happens.”
“Right there with ya,” Christy added.
Like synchronized swimmers, we rolled our chairs out and sat on the faux leather. We had another ten minutes before the meeting started, meaning most of the staff wouldn’t show up for another nine.
Not like I am a poster child for proper work etiquette, but punctuality speaks volumes. Arriving early gave hope to the meeting ending sooner. But no one cared.
More people trickled in—Sandy, Roger, Betty, and a few others I hadn’t met. Most of my coworkers friendly, I’d chatted them up a time or two. In meetings or downstairs in Carol’s Deli. Mom taught me to be polite to new people and make them feel welcome. We all remembered what the first day of school was like… Does my hair look okay? What about my clothes? Will people like me? Do I know anyone here? Mom reminded me everyone thought the same things and to not let such things impede making new friends.
The conference room grew louder as more people filed in and sat down, sparking conversations. I distracted myself and doodled while Christy and Liz chatted about some new haircare product. Beauty products weren’t my cup of tea.
The garden of flowers on the top blue line of my perforated notepad grew—daisies and roses amongst a bed of lush grass—when a voice interrupted my artwork.
“Good morning, Sarah.”
I peeked up from my doodle to find one of my coworkers standing too close to me. The buttons on his pale, blue dress shirt ready to burst open at his belly. “Good morning, Alan. How are you?”
“I’m good, thanks. How are you? You look nice today.”
I tilted my head down, glanced at my chest, and tugged on the cream-colored fabric of my crocheted, bohemian top. “Thank you.”
“Are you ready for hours of sleep-inducing speech? I didn’t get enough sleep last night, so thank goodness we have this meeting today.” He meant it as a joke. I knew this only because of the harsh chuckle—similar to someone who’d smoked for fifty years—exiting his throat.
To make light of his humor, I said, “Meetings… they’re a necessary evil.”
His laughter rang louder with exaggerated excitement. Everyone nearby noticed—a few brows furrowed. What I said wasn’t laugh-worthy, but to each their own.
Something tapped my hand, and I twisted to face Liz, the end of her pen hovered over my hand. Before I asked what was up, she pointed to the front of the room. Bob ready to start the meeting.
The conference room door shut, the heads of the meeting poised and ready as everyone wrapped up their conversations. As the voices faded into silence, I swore I heard always getting in the way resound from the table to my right. The table where Alan sat.
“All right folks, quiet down. It’s almost over and then you can head to lunch.” The stir of restless voices quieted once more and allowed Marco to finish. “This year’s shaping up well so far, and we’re only two weeks in. For those of you who are on pace to meet your quarterly goals, I thank you. Keep up the good work.”
A hand landed on my shoulder and patted, and I jumped. “Good job, Sarah,” Alan whispered too close to my ear. An uncomfortable tremor rippled through my body and my shoulders shook. With every ounce of courtesy I could muster, I responded with a thumbs up and kept my face turned away from his.
Marco’s voice boomed over the slight uptick in the chitchat. “Give me one more minute, people.” The room quieted one last time, allowing Marco his closing statement. “Thank you. For those below par, I don’t doubt you’ll meet your goals. Reach out to your previous contacts and ask for referrals. Talk to friends, family, and neighbors. There’s bound to be someone. Thank you for your time this morning. Don’t forget our annual luncheon is next month. Bob will get more information to you soon. Keep up the great work and let’s blow this quarter out of the water! Meeting adjourned.”
Like the running of the bulls, everyone bolted from their chairs and corralled out the door, eager to leave the conference room. Christy, Liz, and I hung back and waited for everyone to leave.
I thought the room had emptied. The room quiet except for our chatting about where to grab lunch, I startled when a chair rolled behind me and bumped my chair. That same awkwardness from earlier rested in my belly.
“Where you ladies going to lunch? I can’t decide myself.” Alan’s voice next to my ear.
Christy glimpsed my face—unease rose from the pit of my stomach and highlighted my features—and answered for all of us. “We haven’t decided yet. Too many options nearby.”
Words escaped me as I tried to translate my nervousness. It was peculiar. Alan sat at his table, alone, for the last five minutes. I’d talked with him several times since I worked for Hammond Life and never once did I get a weird vibe from him. Today, though… Today felt different. Intrusive.
Was he eavesdropping? Our chitchat lacked substance, but spying made my stomach churn. My ass was sore from sitting so long, but I was determined to stay seated. The padded chair creaked beneath me as I redistributed my weight and waited for Alan to leave. The energy in the room was stagnant and eerie.
When he rose to stand, his body invaded my personal space as his voice thundered above me. “Well, I’m headed down to the deli. Hope to see you there.”
“Cool. Enjoy your lunch, Alan.” Christy’s sing-song voice dismissed him.
A clock on the wall ticked three deafening beats before he pivoted away and walked out the door. Outside the room, I watched as he eyed me between the blinds a moment. Three breaths later, he spun around and headed down the corridor. I peered at Christy and Liz, my unease fading to the background. The discomfort from a moment ago replaced with mass confusion.
“What the hell was that?” Liz asked.
“Wish I knew. The whole situation was awkward. And you know it takes a lot to get me frazzled.” The last part beyond true. My open and easy-going demeanor difficult to dislodge. Many of my friendships were forged due to my loving nature.
“We damn sure won’t be going to Carol’s today,” Christy said, adamant.
“I am one hundred percent okay with that.” Their agreement flooded me with relief and washed away any residual unease. “That being said, where should we go?”
The lunch crowd at the old bank-turned-restaurant was a madhouse today. Meeting days allowed us to venture farther for lunch. Since we had to endure hours of monotony, the company allotted us an extended lunchtime.
The waitress walked away with our orders. Miles of sunshine illuminated our table from the wall of windows. For a restaurant, the place wasn’t huge, but had great personality and awesome food.
“So, what’s up with Alan today? Is it me? It all seemed a little weird,” Christy stated.
“He was trying to spark conversation, I guess. Maybe he doesn’t have friends in the office. Who knows,” Liz said, shrugging.
“You’re so nice, Liz. The whole thing was still weird. Did you guys see him touch my shoulder when Marco talked about people being on track?” I wasn’t sure of their focus when the speech was delivered.
“Um, no. Really?” Christy asked. Aversion tugged her brow and scrunched her nose.
“Yep. Awkward moment number one. When he first walked in and talked to me, it wasn’t strange. More like water cooler talk. I was just being polite. But after… he wouldn’t leave.” This discomfort was odd. My outgoing nature a part of me as much as my hair or eyes or limbs. My extroverted mother ingrained it in me since birth.
“I read it all over your face. That’s why I played coy when he asked about lunch,” Christy said.
“And for that, you’re my hero.” I raised my hands above my head and lowered them, bowing to her.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let’s not go giving Christy a big head now. Put that shit away.” Liz’s hands swatted mine and stopped my display of worship to our friend.
“Don’t be jealous, bitch.” Christy giggled. “I did us all a favor. If Sarah wants to worship me, we should allow her to do so.” Her eyebrow cocked as she stuck her tongue out at Liz.
“Whatever. On to something more fun. Let’s talk about my birthday party. It’s a couple weeks out. Thoughts on who to invite?” Liz fidgeted like a kid high on sugar.
My circle of friends was small and I prayed Liz didn’t ask me to invite people. “I’ll help decide food and drinks. You guys handle the invite list.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Liz said, pleased one task was divvied. She was giddy we were one step closer to her big day.
“I’ll talk to some people and get more names added to the invite list. How many you thinking?” Christy grabbed her phone and typed on a blank note screen.
“Only twenty-five or thirty. I don’t want to piss off the neighbors. Hey…” Liz pointed at Christy. “Invite a couple of my neighbors, too. That way we’re not only being nice, but we’re also letting them know I’m throwing a party.”
“Good idea,” Christy said, not stealing a moment to peek up from her phone.
Seconds later, our conversation ended when our server arrived with our food. We lined up our plates like a buffet. Chopsticks in hand, onlookers probably thought we were fighting to the death. But this was our normal, and I loved it. I loved how we could be ourselves around each other.
But little did I know, someone else sat nearby. Someone who would turn my world upside down.
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